South Melbourne move to strengthen A-League bid with unisex training
In what they claim is an Australian footballing first, South Melbourne have combined their senior men and women's training for their upcoming season.
The former NSL powerhouse is upping the ante on their A-League expansion hopes, declaring their readiness to enter a W-League team from year one of their admission to the big time.
It seems the golden age for women's sport in Australia is taking root from the elite level to the grassroots.
South Melbourne, awarded Oceania's team of the century, now has more women's teams than men's sides.
They will showcase their top-tier women with eight double-headers throughout the upcoming state season.
Coach Gabrielle Guiliano said she was proud of the unified approach to training and playing.
"The club and our code at Lakeside Stadium is creating history by having our senior men and senior female team training together," Guiliano said.
"They will become regular occurrences, with the club already planning numerous sessions throughout the next six weeks."
South Melbourne have won four of the last five women's titles they've competed for and have added a touch of W-League class to this year's playing group.
Alex Gummer and Alex Cheal (Melbourne Victory), Melina Ayres (Melbourne City) and ex-Victory pair Jamie Pollock and Tifany Eliades will wear South Melbourne's blue shirts in the NPL Victoria competition.
Guiliano said the club hoped to add others -- and possibly current Matildas -- to their playing or coaching ranks before the season kicks off.
Cheal, who will captain the club this season, said South's efforts made a difference to her and the women's side.
"Sessions such as tonight further emphasises how proud I am with the club for the enormous strides it has made over the past 18 months to be at the forefront of equality in sport," she said.
"It's really exciting to know that whether you are a male, female, boy or girl, that when you put on the South shirt you will be treated with respect and in an equal manner."
Board member Bill Papastergiadis said South was "a complete football club."
"The club is innovating in how it trains its players and how it markets the womens' games. South is playing a leading role in the development of the women's game in Australia."